Vigilante Murders in Khayelitsha Affirms Need For Commission of Inquiry

An SJC member at a protest outside the Western Cape Legislature on 4 October 2011 calling for a commission of inquiry into Khayelitsha's police and criminal justice system.

On 28 November 2011 the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and partner organisations submitted a formal complaint to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, calling for a Commission of Inquiry with powers to investigate failures of the Khayelitsha police and criminal justice system.  More information on the complaint can be found here.

Two articles from today’s Cape Times (posted below) report that at least eight people have been murdered in Khayelitsha over the past two weeks in acts of vigilante mob violence. The SJC strongly condemns this behavior and calls for those involved to be prosecuted, but understands the frustration and anger felt by communities.

Residents have lost faith in the State to protect them from criminality. Men, women and children are assaulted, robbed, raped and murdered daily conducting simple tasks such as using a toilet or accessing public transport.  When trying to report crime, victims are often treated poorly or turned away.  Cases involving serious and violent crime are often dismissed or delayed for years as a result of poor investigative work and court proceedings.

The commission will serve as an important first step in identifying systemic failures in need of urgent intervention.  The recent spate of vigilante violence affirms the need for such a commission to be launched as a matter of urgency.


Why Khayelitsha is turning to mob justice

By Xolani Koyana, Cape Times (26 March 2012)

It is no coincidence that there has been a spate of kangaroo court incidents and the necklacing of several alleged robbers in Khayelitsha, experts say, as there is a breakdown of the criminal justice system in the area and a distrust of police.

On Sunday, two men, one necklaced and the other stoned to death, were killed within a 3km radius in Khayelitsha. This brought the number of people killed by kangaroo courts in the area to eight in less than two weeks.

Last week, a 1 000-strong crowd killed three men by necklacing them after a kangaroo court had found them guilty of stealing a generator. Five days before, three bodies were found in sand dunes in Macassar.

In November, activists working in Khayelitsha, including the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, the Triangle Project and Ndifuna Ukwazi, submitted a dossier to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille calling on her to use her powers to establish a commission of inquiry into apparent failures of police and the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha.

In the document, compiled over two years, the NGOs said these failures included:

  • The lack of co-ordination between police and prosecuting authorities, which resulted in dockets being lost and cases being struck off court rolls.
  • Investigating officers routinely failing to ensure that witnesses were present at trials, causing lengthy postponements.
  • Witnesses often being intimidated because they were not protected from criminals.
  • Insufficient visible policing in Khayelitsha.

Copies of the letter sent to Zille were also sent to Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer, mayor Patricia de Lille, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe. Zille told the Cape Times she was seeking legal advice on whether to appoint a commission. The dossier had been sent to the city’s metro police and SAPS for comment, with the latter yet to respond.

“I believe there are clear grounds to conclude that the trust relationship between the police and the residents of Khayelitsha is seriously strained. That contributes to my analysis of the situation, but I cannot act without complying with all the legal precepts, which is what I am currently doing,” Zille said.

“Many people do feel vulnerable to crime, they don’t feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods and they don’t trust the police and broader criminal justice system to address crime effectively.”

The SJC’s Joel Bregman said there was “certainly a causal link” between systemic failures of Khayelitsha’s criminal justice system and the kangaroo courts.

“SA’s constitution is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world and affords all a number of vital… rights. Among those are the rights to human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, property and access to courts.

“These (and many others) are routinely trampled on as people, especially those living in our country’s underserviced informal settlements, continue to experience high levels of crime and inadequate access to and quality of the justice system,” Bregman said.

He said, however, the Social Justice Coalition did not condone acts of vigilantism as it “further fuels the cycle of violence and crime and exposes people, including children, to terrible scenes of brutality”.

Plato said he was concerned about what seemed to be a breakdown in communication between communities and police in Khayelitsha.

He said he would raise the issue with police chief Lamoer and ask for a full report on the crime situation and policing in the area. – Cape Times

Latest mob killings brings death toll to eight

By Barbara Maregele, Cape Times (26 March 2012)

TWO more men were killed in less than 24 hours in what appear to be acts of mob justice – bringing the total to eight deaths in two weeks. more

The two incidents occurred in Khayelitsha.

In the most recent one, police found a man burnt to death in the Endlovini informal settlement in Harare in Khayelitsha yesterday morning. “He had a tyre around him. His feet were tied with ropes,” said police spokesman November Filander.

One of the residents of the area, Sweetness Qwane, told the Cape Times the dead man had been accused of cable theft.

She said she lived metres away from where the incident occurred. “I heard people outside and when I went out, a lot of people were standing (around). The people were saying that he was stealing the cables so they decided to teach him a lesson. I went to look and saw he was burning.”

She said she lived in fear of thieves who often came to steal her cables and belongings.

“I can’t sleep at night because when I wake up in the morning you realise that your electricity is gone. The cables disappear overnight. It’s a big problem in our community. We are angry and tired of this,” she said.

Qwane pointed to the spot of charred grass and sand where the victim was burnt.

“The community are tired of all these cable thefts and break-ins in the area, and the police do nothing,” she said.

Hours earlier the night before, Filander said, they had responded to another incident in Lingelethu-West, also in Khayelitsha.

On arrival, officers found a man lying on his back, bleeding from his mouth and ears.

His feet had been tied with a black and white rope and a concrete drain cover and tyres had been placed on his chest.

“Paramedics declared the man dead on the scene. No witnesses have come forward at this stage and nobody has been arrested as yet,” he said.

The two incidents are the latest in a string of similar acts of violence where community members are believed to have taken the law into their own hands.

Last Monday, Mncedile Gigi, 26, and two of his accomplices had admitted to community members to stealing a generator from a church. They were necklaced and torched.

Similarly, two weeks ago, the bodies of Luxolo Mpontshane, 25, Mabhuti Matinise, 20, and Sivuyile Rola, 28, were found on sand dunes in Macassar after they allegedly stole a resident’s plasma TV.

Four people were arrested and appeared in court.

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